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Sooke high school theatre program stages play with live orchestra

Under director Crystal Loszchuk, EMCS students erform alongside an 11-piece orchestra
Actors Payton Hogan and Carson Orr rehearse for the upcoming Edward Milne Community School’s theatre production of Anastasia. (EMCS/Contributed)

The Edward Milne Community School’s theatre program is introducing an exciting new element to its production of “Anastasia” this year.

“We’ll be using a live 11-piece orchestra under the direction of EMCS music teacher Cody Froese for this production,” said Crystal Loszchuk, who took over as theatre director at EMCS this year. “Not all students in high school theatre productions have that opportunity (to work with a live orchestra), so it’s very exciting for them.”

Anastasia, set in Russia in 1927 just after the Russian revolution, revolves around Grand Duchess Anastasia, said Jeremy Davidson, an 18-year-old Grade 12 student who takes on the role of Dimitry, a commoner.

“Anastasia’s one of only two surviving members of thew Romanov family, and is dealing with trying to figure out what it all means while she’s dealing with amnesia,” Davidson said.

Payton Hogan said she enjoys portraying Anastasia more than characters she’s played in the past.

“I feel much more like this character is more of a challenge because she’s the polar opposite of previous roles I’ve played,” said the Grade 12 student who turned 18 on April 9. “There’s maybe more of a serious tone, but I’m having a lot of fun playing her and relating to her character.”

Grade 12 student Presley Banys, who plays Lily, Anastasia’s lady-in-waiting, said some dance numbers have proved challenging.

“There was no dancing in the last production, so it’s taken some work to get up to speed,” the 18-year-old noted.

Elijah Heal, who plays the former count Vlad, said his passion for music, singing, and dancing initially drew her to theatre.

“I can pretend to be someone else, which is an escape from the real world, and have fun telling someone else’s story,” the 17-year-old Grade 11 student noted. “I’ve been in theatre since I was nine and always find something new that engages me. I love meeting people, and it’s like a giant family here.”

Director and choreographer Loszchuk took over from Lisa McLellan, who was at EMCS for more than 20 years.

Loszchuk began teaching in 2018, and spent 18 months at Royal Bay Secondary School before the move to EMCS.

“Before I started teaching, I was involved in all facets of theatre as a volunteer my whole life, so I have a good sense of the demands,” Loszchuk said.

“My approach is to try and ensure the students do something excellent because that provides them with the highest reward. I set very high expectations, and I’m always amazed at how the students exceed them.”

Performances will be at Sooke Community Theatre, 6218 Sooke Rd., on April 24, 25 and 26 at 7 p.m. and at 2 p.m. on April 27.

Tickets cost $17 for adults, $7 for Sooke School District students and seniors, and are available at the school office or online at

About the Author: Rick Stiebel

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